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Sinn Féin accused of having ‘little impact’ on Rising centenary

Alex White says the public was not interested in the republican party’s take on 1916

Former minister for communications Alex White has accused Sinn Féin of having ‘very little impact’ on the Easter Rising commemorations. File photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times

Sinn Féin has made “very little impact” on the Easter Rising commemorations, a former Labour minister has said.

Former minister for communications Alex White said he expected Sinn Féin’s take on the commemorations to be more popular than it was, but the party had failed to “get through to the broader population”.

Sinn Féin had arranged its own Easter Rising commemorations outside of the official ceremonies, including a year-long exhibition at the Ambassador Theatre in Dublin and events in the Mansion House and Glasnevin Cemetery.

Mr White told this year’s Parnell Summer School that the Irish public were not interested in Sinn Féin’s take on the Easter Rising commemorations.

“I was genuinely surprised by how little impact they had. I thought in terms of the public discourse that they would have a big impact, but they didn’t.

“They had remarkably little impact. I don’t know why that is. I’m surprised by it,” he said.

“The people weren’t interested, other than the very enthusiastic supporters that they have. They didn’t get through to the broader population in my view. That’s a matter of empirical evidence.”

Mr White admitted that the prospect of Sinn Féin taking over the Easter Rising commemorations had been a concern for the previous government, but “it was not the principal concern”.

Mr White, who was a member of the caretaker government during the Easter weekend centenary commemorations despite losing his seat in February’s general election, said the commemorations had been largely uncontested and “remarkably unifying”.

Consensus

Maurice Manning, the chairman of the State’s expert advisory group on the commemorations, said it was clear that Sinn Féin saw itself as “outside whatever consensus emerged” in relation to the centenary of the Easter Rising.

Mr Manning said he had opened an Easter Rising memorial in his hometown of Bagnelstown, Co Carlow, in April, which had been organised by Carlow County Council and its local committee.

The memorial was dedicated to Fr Albert Bibby, one of the Capuchin priests who had ministered to the leaders of the Easter Rising before their executions, and nurse Margaret Kehoe, the first civilian killed during the Rising.

He said that Sinn Féin had done its own unveiling of the same memorial on the previous Sunday.

“I’m told that this sort of thing has happened quite a lot around the country,” Mr Manning said.

Mr Manning said that Sinn Féin had also organised a parallel commemoration for Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa, which had been described as a “bad day in Belfast”.

He said that , on Easter Sunday, Sinn Féin politicians left the State commemoration to host their own event.

“Sinn Féin were prepared in an election year to put a huge amount of money into claiming ownership of 1916, ” he said.